When Life Gives You Basil… Make Lemonade!

purplebasil2I have a LOT of basil.

I mean a LOT. My mother brought me a sprig of purple basil from my great-grandmother’s garden a few years ago and it has turned into a hedge of basil, I kid you not. It is a wonderful bounty, and I love to share it — I gave each child in my son’s preschool class a plant to start in their own gardens and I’m always offering it to passing neighbors, strangers, the A/C repair guy…

But this year’s bounty far exceeds any previous year’s and I’m at a loss as to how to use it. I’m looking for additional recipes!

I’ve made some different pestos, and so far I like the version from Andrea’s Recipes — although I have to ask — do most people toast their pine nuts first or not?

I’ve made this creamy basil pesto three times now, with a few variations on the cheese, and we like it. (The original recipe is for shrimp, but I’ve made just the sauce, and put it over rigatoni or ziti with chicken or ham and peas.)

I’ve made this lemonade and it had a nice flavor — an added complexity to lemonade you would never expect. This is the blessing of a bumper crop — it makes you try new things!

I have not yet made this version of syrup for lemonade/gimlets, but plan to eventually. (I am not a big drinker, but I’ll try a gimlet, just to try one — we have these gorgeous martini glasses we got as wedding gifts and I don’t think we’ve ever had a reason to use them!)

And I’ve made this basil chicken with rice dish, which was very good.

I would love to hear from you about your favorite basil recipes, especially if it uses large quantities of basil!

And what is YOUR bumper crop this summer?


Learn more about how my crop started from this DC Metro Mom’s post.

Don’t miss out on your chance to enter the Spongebob humidifier giveaway! Read the details here: http://caffeineandaprayer.com/2009/06/18/fun-giveaway-spongebob-humidifier-by-crane/

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  1. I’ve never heard of a perennial basil before. Mine always dies back when the first frost hits and doesn’t return.

    I like making spaghetti squash that I’ll sautee in butter with lots of onions and garlic (and sometimes a diced tomato). At the last minute I’ll throw in handfuls of basil cut into thin ribbons and top with feta cheese. Yum.

    I have a lemon balm plant that I inherited from my FIL. Luckily I planted it in a pot before putting it in the ground, because the thing would have taken over the entire garden it is that voracious. However, I never know what to do with the stuff! I’ve made teas with it and use it as a natural bug repellent, but that’s about it.

  2. I have never used lemon balm! Hopefully someone will comment on this thread who knows a lot about it!

    I will have to try your recipe, thanks for posting it!

  3. These are great, JM!! Thanks!!

  4. The chicken recipe calls for dried basil — remind me of the exchange when you use fresh instead of dried? It’s either half the amount or twice the amount … I think. Thanks!

  5. Oh, you know what, I had dried some basil from last year, so I used that, and then I threw in a little bit of the fresh for good measure. I had forgotten that recipe asked for the dried. I used a food dehydrator to dry the leaves and then crushed them and stored them in a ziplock baggie at the end of the season last year.

  6. By the way, I do not know the actual variety of basil I have — if anyone can identify it, I would love to know. It looks sort of like purple ruffles, but I don’t think it is as deeply purple or shiny.

  7. I love basil and use it all the time in the summer. You know, when it’s in season. I don’t love spending $2 for one wilted leaf in the off season. I’m a little jealous of your basil bounty!

  8. Marinka, I wish you lived close enough to come get some! It is amazing how much we have in the planter area — it is almost a hedge. In CA, we had a rosemary hedge — and at the time I didn’t even really cook much (hey, we were DINKS who worked all the time, who cooked?) I wish I had that rosemary hedge now!

    I just discoverd that a whole bunch of it is now growing right by our garbage can area on the side of the house. By next year the house may be surrounded!

  9. During the holidays, we always end up with one of those Summer Sausages. They are not my favorite and I always wonder how to serve them. I discovered something that guests rave over using basil. Slice the sausage, place on a baking pan, crisp in a 350 degree oven…basically heat until they are sizzling, serve on a plate covering each with a small dallop of sour cream and fresh basil on top. They are quite scrumptious and super simple.
    I would love to try one of your plants in my garden if you are willing to spare! Please Advise. Many Thanks!

  10. : ) I’m hoping you are now starting your own basil patch with a transplant from my garden. My great-grandmother would be so pleased!

  11. To De in D.C.

    Lemon Balm is one of my favorite herbs. One of the many ways i like to use it is when cooking fresh fish whole, especially trout. Take whole leaves and a few pats of butter and place inside the fish, wrap in foil and cook it on the grill. I also like to make a wet rub for chicken using minced lemon balm, olive oil, sea salt and cracked black pepper.
    Lemon balm is a good addition to any pasta or chicken dish flavored with lemon of any sorts. It is one of the strongest lemon essenced herbs there is, even stronger than lemon verbena.
    I have even made cheesecake using only lemon balm for flavoring and a little bit of honey to make it sweet.
    All you really need to do is google lemon balm and you should come up with some really good recipes.

  12. Joyce Miller says:

    Sorry for the late comment, but I just came across your post today. You don’t have basil there, it is actually Red Perilla. Red Perilla (Perilla frutescens) is an edible herb used in Aisan cuisine. The Japanese name for prilla is shiso and is often eaten with sashimi or cut into thin strips in salads, spaghetti, and meat and fish dishes. It is an annual, but self-seeds readily. It is commonly mis-labeled as purple basil, but basil rarely re-seed as prolifically as perilla does. So when my customers tell me that they have tons of basil that comes back every year, I usually know that they really have red perilla. There is also a green variety.
    From your picture, I can tell almost positively that you have perilla and not basil.

    • I somehow missed seeing this comment! Wow — thank you for letting me know! I’m going to have to find out more about Red Perilla now!

  13. Kimberly says:

    I am so glad I found this post! I purchased a house last year and found this lovely plant growing in profusion in one of the back beds. It came back again this year, and I’ve been thinking it’s probably a basil, though I’ve never seen a basil with this kind of veining and leathery appearance. I’m thrilled to know it’s proper name, and I look forward to learning more about it.